Skip to main content

In preparation for writing a new virtual sales course for LinkedIn Learning, I contacted my brother, a best selling author and neuroscientist, who focuses on productivity and the brain.

I figured he would share the science behind distraction-why we’re more prone to it today than when we grew up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. During our Zoom call, he became visibly frustrated. About every 45 seconds, my phone beeped, my social media pinged. (Samantha and 22 others liked my post!) At one point my husband’s special ring sounded on my phone.

“Don’t you see the irony in this?” he asked.
“Let’s just go on.” I pleaded. “I only have thirty minutes.”
“But I’m distracted with all the noise,” he said.
“I just don’t want to miss any messages or emails,” I explained.
“That’s exactly what’s happening to the sellers who are taking your course,” he said.

Of course, I knew he was right. In addition to distracting our prospects and customers, (5 ways to keep any prospect’s attention), these external noises lure us away from staying focused.

In the documentary, The Social Dilemma, producer Jeff Orlowski shows how technology companies encourage us to spend more time on their platforms by creating algorithms designed to excite, agitate and addict us to want more. Each time we check a Twitter feed or Facebook update, we get a dollop of opiate-like reward hormones. This pinging and dinging creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. We get pulled deeper into a rabbit hole. This goes for email too. According to bestselling author, Jill Konrath, email, like social media, lights up the pleasure center in our brain. The very act of opening it, deleting it and responding to it makes us feel good.

In her article Constant Connectivity, Judy Wajeman writes that 70 percent of people check their email within six seconds of receiving it! Sure, these messages may be important, but this means you’re stopping whatever else you’re doing to take a peek.

The big difference between now and when we were kids, my brother explained is that we had limits. TV shows lasted a finite amount of time. When it was over it was over. Today, all the information in the world is on the internet. There’s no timer on Facebook or email so you must self regulate. This means you should:

  • Turn off all sounds, emails and notifications while on a virtual call or when preparing for one.
  • Do your most difficult work like prospecting or pre call planning (The most overlooked step in virtual sales) in the morning when you’re fresh. Save responding to emails and checking social media for a specific time later in the day. Make it a reward!
  • If you love social media like I do, set a timer for how long you’ll allow yourself to go down the rabbit hole.

Going down the rabbit hole is like drinking from a fire hose when you’re thirsty. Sure, you’ll quench your thirst, but you may get knocked down while you’re doing it.


  • Chuck Koog says:

    Good points…. and what is worse is you keep this habit even when you are NOT selling at all. Private time, in jobs other than selling, etc. I maintain this is just simply part of what is making our society worse off. It’s also why we have idiots like Trump in our White House.

  • Shari Levitin says:

    Thank you Chuck. It is harder than ever to focus on what’s MOST important.

  • R says:

    After reading this and watching The Social Dilemma the only thought that comes to my mind is that human race is destroying itself with new technologies instead of leveraging.
    There are just not enough regulating bodies, no one is paying attention especially where I come from, In continents like Europe/ America the government is now getting involved for ex. the GDPR law that was introduced in 2018 in the EU, but that is just for a handful of countries, the governments from developing nations like India which is the 2nd Populous country in the World is way behind and trust me when I say this majority of the people are more messed up here than elsewhere in the context of how social media affects mental wellbeing.

  • Shari Levitin says:

    Great points. I believe there’s good and bad with social media. Social media can bring cancer survivors together, help business people sell products and especially today keep families and friends connected. The trick is how to balance the good and the bad. And like most things that takes willpower and restraint.

  • nancy hite says:

    Social Media and participating requires us to build valuable “personal” habits. Shari’s idea of limiting time & time of day is useful. We need to realize that personal contact is important to develop meaningful relationships. Voice and eye contact cannot be replaced by text and emails. Our mental health is dependent on the “personal,” in person contact. Maybe video contact can, under today’s distance requirements, provide some of the benefits.

Leave a Reply